Community "Cooperative Polygraphy" Review: Lies, Lies, Lies YEAH!

By Tim Surette

Jan 17, 2014

Community S05E03: "Cooperative Polygraphy"

All praise the Laser Lotus! "Cooperative Polygraphy" was one heck of a great episode of Community, and the best of the show's revitalized fifth season to date. End of story. Well, not the end of this story, but at least the and of any lingering doubt that Community is back to form. "Repilot" showed us that Greendale could open its doors again, "Introduction to Teaching" showed us how the show could be infused with new life, and "Basic Intergluteal Numismatics" (a.k.a. "Intro to Butt Banking") showed us that Community still knows how to handle a stunt episode. But "Cooperative Polygraphy"? This was Community at its finest, no matter what part of the show's timeline you're talking about, a shoestring-budget masterpiece that maximized a simple premise to highlight the series' biggest strength: the bonds between the study group that've transformed them into a surrogate family. Oh, and I laughed. A lot!

Pierce wouldn't let a stupid thing like death get in the way of his penchant for instigating mayhem within the group, and in order to have a crack at his inheritance, the study group had to submit to being put through a lie-detector test to determine whether they were involved in Pierce's death (Pierce actually died by his own hands, literally). This idea—like the premise of the episode's spiritual predecessor, the super-brilliant Season 2 episode "Cooperative Calligraphy" (hey those titles rhyme!)—was so basic that it allowed the characters to dictate the story, and because Community's characters are so strong, they're fascinating even when they spend an entire episode bottled up in a room. And can't we all just admit that we love Community the most when the group is screaming at each other and then making up?

That inevitable moment of tenderness came from a surprising person: the ghost of Pierce Hawthorne. Despite his prickly legacy hovering like a wraith over the gang—couldn't you just imagine Pierce leaning back with his arms crossed, a smug smile plastered on his face, as the study group imploded on their own?—he posthumously showed off his softer side while dispensing his death gifts. He acknowledged Britta's passion even if she couldn't. He recognized Shirley's strength of character. He lauded Annie as his favorite. He didn't care much for Jeff and Abed, which was so fitting for his character and a testament to the writers not sending him off cheaply. 

But dammit he loved his former roommate Troy. "Cooperative Polygraphy" had to take care of Community's most difficult storyline to date. Namely, sending Troy Barnes off on his path toward exiting the show. NOOOOOOOOO! (Donald Glover is leaving Community after the next episode, and yes you are allowed to cry.) But bravo for how the character's departure is being handled. It feels so right and respectful for Troy's character to go find himself, because he's always been the character who goes with the flow rather than blazes his own trail. And so now Troy's going to sail the Childish Gambino Tycoon around the world and become a man. The sad inevitability heading into Season 5 was that Troy had to go; the silver lining is that he's going out in a way that really works. And do you realize that this isn't just Community recognizing a proud moment for Troy, but also for Mr. Glover, the actor? Giving Troy this send-off (and naming the boat after a nod to Glover's rapping alter ego) shows so much regard from the writers for Glover's personal decision to set out on his own that I might die. So touching. And so excellent. I'm going to miss the hell out of Troy, but this episode convinced me that leaving Community is the right decision for Donald Glover the human being.

"Cooperative Polygraphy" was easily a Top 10 episode of Community for me, given the way it handled some difficult situations. It was the ultimate family episode of Community, because this study group and these actors and these writers and these crew members are part of a family. It's a family like any other family, full of dysfunction, full of secrets, full of mutual admiration. A family that sometimes has to say goodbye to its own. In "Cooperative Polygraphy," we said goodbye to Pierce, and we began our farewell hugs with Troy. And we laughed and cried along the way, because that's what families do. Guys, I'm an emotional wreck!


– This season's amazing guest list continued this week, with Walton Goggins playing Mr. Stone. But Goggins didn't play the role for laughs, letting the group be the focus. That is, until the hilarious end tag, which made his appearance totally worth it.

– Annie: "I guess I knew Pierce was part of a weird futuristic cult, but I wasn't prepared for a funeral with so much beeping."

– Chang mouthing out his trademark "GaaaaaaaaaaYYYYYYYY!" during Mr. Stone's line of questioning of Jeff's heterosexuality. 

– Chang's departure after being asked if he'd masturbated in the study room was absolutely perfect, as was his return with the admission that he masturbated "everywheeeeeeere!" Ken Jeong is a master of both the subdued and extravagant.

– Though this episode will draw comparisons to "Cooperative Calligraphy," I also picked up some of the rite-of-passage feelings of "Mixology Certification," Troy's birthday episode. 

– Troy: "Troy Barnes. Doh, I meant to say Butts Carlton." Also, he tried to "pass" on a question. Haha, Troy has been awesome this season. 


– Troy and Abed's handshake was ripped off of YouTube? I don't even know what is real and what isn't anymore.

– Pierce died the way he lived... a total jack-off.

– Upon hearing Troy is leaving, Abed: "Cool, cool, cool." Lie detector lady: "That's a lie." Oof. That one hurt.

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  • DominykasKeru Jan 25, 2014

    It is one of the best episodes in a a long time. it is in top 10 along with remedial chaos theory... And its rated 6,6.. WTF? Why the ratings of communitys new episodes are so low. Is somoene sabotaging the ratings on purpose?

  • alcalde Mar 17, 2014

    It just wasn't that funny. It's like they're doing paint-by-number with old Community episodes.

  • TonyMutu Feb 28, 2014

    Actually, all of Community's episodes are between 6 and 7. Just ignore it.

  • tobsh Jan 20, 2014

    Awesome. I agree with you, this was definitely top 10 material. You know an episode is good when you gotta go and rewatch the whole thing just to get a shot at another 10% of jokes.

  • Pyke_ Jan 19, 2014

    Britta got a Ipod...but wait! She´s already have an Ipod! Check the episode "Remedial Chaos Theory". Yeah I know about the reference of 1x22 episode...

  • Bloodangel Jan 19, 2014

    Loved this episode......expect the constant lie detector informant saying 'that's a lie' constantly

  • dragon755 Jan 19, 2014

    Chang is back and ... I ... LOVE IT!

    Girlfriend left Community at the start of season 4 claiming it was too boring to continue. Showed her Chang's 10 second scene. Safe to say she'll be watching next week.

  • ILoveTVandDDsBB Jan 19, 2014

    I fear for Abed and Troy better watch his back with Boyd Crowder around. All in all this was a hilarious and sperm filled episode.

  • bluemorphotat Jan 19, 2014

    I am so happy Community is back... (chokes)

  • numberonecubsfa Jan 18, 2014

    That episode was more like it. Character based humor. I'm annoyed they killed off Pierce after giving him an out that none the less allows him to come back some time if they choose. But at least it lead to a sweet episode and was at least treated with respect in the end.

  • Hungry_Homer111 Jan 18, 2014

    I read in an interview with Dan Harmon on IGN that the agreement Chevy had with Sony/NBC when he left meant that he legally couldn't work on the set of the show again, hence why they had the hologram version of him (they could film that in a different location. Shooting in a separate location worked well then, but I don't think it work well if they did it more often, so killing him off didn't really change his chances of returning.

  • dragon755 Jan 19, 2014

    I think this episode, (plus the hologram and the fact that Pierce has had a strong presence this season despite barely appearing) is a strong sign that Harmon is basically apologising to Chevy on behalf of NBC. There's no doubt that Harmon would have him back if possible but evidently it's not. At least Harmon (and us) had a chance to say a proper goodbye to Pierce/Chevy like he deserve.

    Hopefully Harmon can continue his winning streak and give us the Community we missed, despite the hole Chevy and soon Glover has left behind.

    It's also good to see a show deal with two major actors leaving in a proper mature way that rewards the audience.

  • adamonfire Jan 18, 2014

    Great episode, and certainly shot the show back up to my first-to-watch spot of the Thursday shows.

  • joshzimmerman Jan 18, 2014

    The fact that they did an entire episode literally consisting of them sitting in a single room talking while still being hysterical and heartfelt shows that Community is officially back! Now we just need the ratings to go up so we get another season and a movie! Best episode in a long time.

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